Quick change end mill options

So I’ve seen this topic brought up before, hoping there’s something new out there

Does anyone use a quick change option to install a different sized end mill into their spindle? I mean something that’s practical in production.

I have several shapeoko’s doing production batches, many reload and repeat jobs with the same gcode. These are all done with 1/4 end mills, and everything stays the same between batches, just load fresh material and repeat. I would love to be able to turn off the spindle, remove the 1/4 end mill without loosing it’s depth, swap out a pre-loaded 1/8 end mill in some fixture with it’s depth pre determined, then run some different gcode. So swapping doesn’t require resetting the z axis, both end mills are already set accurately in their fixtures, doesn’t require struggling too much with collets / end mills / wrenches. Like imagine doing this several times an hour all day, needs to be easy and repeatable.

Right now I use the stock Makita routers, open to using something different.

would the bitsetter already deal with most of your concern?

The Shapeoko does not have an auto-tool changer like the big machines where the endmills are in a holder, the Bitsetter is a semi-automatic changer. The BitSetter would be the way to go but it is different than the system you described. Instead of having the endmills in holders, you have to install the bit manually but you set your zero at the beginning and install your endmills manually when prompted and the machine does the rest, it measures the endmill stick out and compensates to keep the same Z zero.

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I made an open rectangle device to do sort of what you are describing… Sorry I don’t have a picture of it at the moment… Hopefully I can explain it… So shaped like this I_I … I would put the bit in the collet, slightly loose and then push it up with this device, when the legs hit the router base, tighten it up… Then set your Z. When you do a tool change repeat the process… When the legs hit the router you know you have pushed the bit in the same amount, tighten and repeat.

Not super duper accurate, but depending on the level of accuracy you need it might do the job.


You do not put the bit loose in the collet, you install it properly. The BitSetter and software will measure the bit and compare that to the last one you installed for the project and adjust the workpiece zero accordingly. I guess if a photo is worth a thousand words, this video will provide at least 10 times that.

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Perhaps a miss-understanding… I used that method 3.5 years ago long before either probe was available.
In no way do I mean that it was to be used in conjunction with them.

I’ve used something similar to what @NickT is describing.
3D printed, looked like this:

Here’s a thread on the topic:

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Wow ok this video sounds like it’s what I’m after. The work flow with the BitSetter explained is very helpful. Also after upgrading carbide motion last night while I installed the new HDZ it was refreshing to see a few improvements in the UI, and looks like BitSetter support is one of them.

I would still be cool to have a rapid change fixture for end mills to make frequent swapping easier.

this is something I should be using now, maybe modified so that you could suspend it from the spindle, maybe with a magnets so you can let go over it and have 2 hands free for wrenches

Yah every once in a while I look around for some type of ATC option that could possibly work, and it seems entry level for this type of feature is still 10x the cost of a Shapeoko.

I’ve been noodling on this tool change thing for a while also. At the risk of sounding like one of those guys, I think I can offer a real solution.

insert obligatory qualification statement

The company that I have been working for for a few years now designs and manufactures quick change tools for robotic applications. Payload ranges are from a few pounds up to a few thousand kg. That said, options are available for not just quickly connecting/disconnecting a thing, but also passing utilities through the connection. Example given: you could swap out an entire water-cooled VFD spindle in less than 5 seconds by hand, including making the coolant and power connections.

I do woodworking and Shapeoko nerddom at an avid hobby level with a bent toward occasionally getting paid for stuff, and even at the rate that I use it I often gripe about the wasted time spent between tools. In my situation, having a second standard DeWilt router setup with the next bit ready and waiting to swap onto the HDZ sounds almost worth whatever the cost would be. I’ve considered diving into development of a quick change application for it, but I haven’t found enough value in it yet.

All that said, I have a few questions:

  1. Is there enough interest within the community to justify pursuing this?
  2. What is having a quick change option worth to the avg Shapeoko user?
  3. Would changing out the entire router be a viable option for most users?
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Not speaking for everyone, but it only takes maybe 30s to change the router bit. Getting that down to less than 10 seems unnecessary.


What about bein able to automatically change them though?

Significantly increasing the complexity, the cost and potential for messing up IMO is not worth it. As far as I am concerned, the BitSetter made a major improvement in my workflow for probably 1/20th the cost of a rudimentary ATC. All this being said, I remember a tread quite a while ago where someone had designed an ATC for the Shapeoko but never heard of since. Did it work in the long term?


Cost would be the driving factor, but simplicity and mistakes really are no more than a standard setup. The worst you could do is put the wrong tool on the machine.

Rudimentary would not be an accurate term in this case. The product has a butt-ton of proven hours behind it.

How about having a spring loaded ball in the shank of the bit and a groove in the collet for the ball? Slide the shank into the collet until it “clicks” into place and lock the nut? Would be pretty close, depending on tool wear.
You could start a new fad with that.
You can send royalties to me… 10%
To improve that, you could add a spring loaded collar in the place of the nut. Raise the collar to release the bit, release the collar and insert the new tool to “click” into place and already locked by the spring loaded collar. Maybe add a 3/4 twist to the spring loaded collar just to tighten the tool a bit (see what I did there?) more…
Bit change and zero in about 3 seconds

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How about down to less than 3 seconds?

3 seconds is a lot faster than you will want to be moving, I think.

There’s enough interest from me to consider getting some made, and being a shop owner with more than one machine I can see the benefit. Would the average user want to pay a machine shop for a few hours to make one? maybe not. I’m thinking there must be something like this available already for routers - I was just hoping to find someone here that actually uses a quick change fixture and could tell me it holds up 1/4 end mills and doesn’t have any run out. quick changing out the whole router would be a non starter for me.

thinking about trying this out, has anyone used them?